China's first carrier-based, fixed-wing early warning aircraft makes maiden flight: reports
Published: Sep 01, 2020 09:16 PM

Aircrafts are visible on the deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning of the PLA Navy. File photo:


China's first aircraft carrier-based, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, reportedly called the KJ-600, successfully made its maiden flight in late August, foreign and Chinese media reported. This type of plane will become far-reaching eyes and significantly boost the comprehensive combat capability of Chinese aircraft carriers, which currently only have helicopters for early warning purposes, Chinese experts said on Tuesday.

An aircraft identified as the KJ-600 was recently spotted in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in a commercial satellite image, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based magazine on the national defense industry, reported on Monday, citing a report on Forbes on Saturday.

Unverified photos posted on social media show it recently made its first test flight, the Chinese magazine said.

The Chinese military or the aircraft's manufacturer has not announced the maiden flight of the aircraft as of press time.

Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Tuesday that after China built an aircraft carrier, it was expected to develop an aircraft carrier-based early warning system as a priority project.

When China's aircraft carriers sail far away from inland to an extent that land-based early warning aircraft cannot provide early warning support, the carriers would lose their full combat potential without a carrier-based fixed-wing early warning aircraft, Wang said. He added that this kind of aircraft can quickly create an early warning and control system to allow an aircraft carrier combat group to independently carry out missions.

China's aircraft carriers currently rely on early warning helicopters to do the job, but they can only carry smaller radars, have limited speed, and only cover a radius of about 200 kilometers, while a fixed-wing early warning aircraft can cover about 400 to 500 kilometers, Wang said.

Judging from the images, Ordnance Industry Science Technology said that the KJ-600 has a very tight fuselage design, making it almost as long as the J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jet, and the Z-18 early warning helicopter.

The aircraft carries a radar on the top of its middle fuselage, similar to China's previous early warning aircraft KJ-2000 and KJ-500.

It likely uses two WJ-6C turboprop engines, but could switch to the newer WJ-10s in the future, the report said.

The Forbes report claimed that the KJ-600 looks like the US Navy's E-2C Hawkeye.

Wang said it is natural that similar technological requirements and approaches, including on the design of a carrier-operable aircraft platform and the development of small but capable radar, have led to this.

There is no evidence yet if the KJ-600 can operate on China's current two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, which use ski-jump flight decks without catapults. China's third aircraft carrier is expected to use a flat flight deck with electromagnetic catapults, which will be compatible with the KJ-600, analysts said.